URL Design Guide

Summary

Guidance on the design of URLs on mygov.scot.

Purpose

This document describes how URLs are used on mygov.scot, their formatting requirements and why short URLs are sometimes created for promotional purposes. This document is forked from Government Digital Service URL Standards.

➤ Please note this document is currently in draft status and may be subject to change. We are happy to receive feedback on this document via the channels in the footer.

Contents

Introduction

1. mygov.scot URLs are designed to be naturally user (and SEO) friendly, and to follow a consistent, predictable, format. These guidelines set out how URLs should be constructed, and our approach to setting up additional URLs for marketing purposes.

2. These standards apply to the mygov.scot website and its sub-domains.

URL style

3. The style for mygov.scot URLs is that:

  • URLs always need to be clear, unambiguous, easy to read, easy to type and easy to share
  • all URLs must be in lower case
  • URLs must use words and should not contain acronyms, wherever possible (see 8 for an exception where acronyms are used for an organisation redirect)
  • dashes should be used to separate words within URLs so they are easy to read, e.g. https://www.mygov.scot/running-a-limited-company/ (see 5, 7 and 15 for exceptions on campaign landing pages and service sub-domain URLs)
  • articles (a, an, the) and other superfluous words should not be used, e.g. use /benefits/ or /benefits-guides/ rather than /a-guide-to-benefits/
  • URLs should use the verb stem, where possible, e.g. /apply/ instead of /applying/
  • each page must have a URL which is as short, memorable and unambiguous as possible, especially if a URL is going to be referred to offline
  • URLs should be based on user need rather than the (current) name of a policy, scheme or service, which might change, e.g. the URL https://www.mygov.scot/help-with-childcare-costs/ is intended for people who wish to seek help with covering the costs of caring for their children.

Campaign sites and URL promotion

4. Trailing slashes should be used when sharing or printing URLs, or when providing third parties with links to mygov.scot content, e.g. use www.mygov.scot/nice-url-here/ rather than www.mygov.scot/nice-url-here.

5. Campaign landing pages do not exist on mygov.scot at the moment. However, once live they will help support digital content for campaign and promotional activity. These URLs will be aligned with the title of the marketing campaign. They should be as short as possible and contain only lowercase a-z characters, e.g. www.mygov.scot/sortmytax, www.mygov.scot/workplacepensions.

‘Friendly’ URLs (furls) and redirects for existing content

6. For marketing or promotional activity where a campaign landing page does not exist, then a top level redirect may be requested (see 10).

7. In some situations, even shorter URLs are needed. Some government information and services get promoted offline. Where this is the case, it’s helpful if the URL is especially memorable and easy to say or type. If a URL is going to be read aloud (on the radio or on an automated call centre message) it may make sense to request a redirect. By default, short URLs do not use hyphens.

Top level redirects

8. These are redirects which exist at www.mygov.scot/url/, such as those used for organisation pages. Due to the large amount of content that already exists at the top level of mygov.scot, only a limited number of redirects will be allowed here. Requests will be considered by the mygov.scot performance and experience team on a case-by-case basis and will only be granted if the following conditions are satisfied:

  • the URL conforms to all other requirements of the mygov.scot URL guidelines
  • the content being promoted originates from, or is significantly relevant to, more than one government department or organisation
  • the URL needs to be specific to the content and make sense forever (e.g. include a year when using a re-direct for one-off promotion of an annual event)
  • the URL will be used for significant offline marketing and promotion

External redirects

9. A mygov.scot URL must not be used to directly promote any content or service that is not available on the mygov.scot platform. A mygov.scot URL must not be used to redirect a user to a non-mygov.scot URL.

Service sub-domain URLs

10. The advertised start page of all mygov.scot transactional services will be of the form www.mygov.scot/service-url/ and must comply with the mygov.scot URL guidelines.

11. The transactional part of the service - the dynamically generated pages where users interact with the service - will not typically be hosted on www.mygov.scot. Rather, this part of the service will exist on a mygov.scot sub-domain of the form servicename.service.mygov.scot.

12. The ‘service name’ part of a URL will be agreed between the mygov.scot team and the service manager, and will conform to the mygov.scot URL guidelines.

13. Dashes may be used to separate words where appropriate, but are not mandatory for service sub-domain URLs.

14. The URL should be a suitable unique identifier for the specific service hosted on the domain. It must not include reference to any (current) policy, scheme or organisation which might change in the future.